5 Tips to Reduce Winter Energy Use Without Sacrificing Comfort

Have you lowered the programmable thermostat by 10 degrees when you’re asleep or away from home? Doing so can lower energy use in the winter by around 10%, but you don’t have to turn the temperature down further to keep conserving energy. 

Try these five tips to reduce winter energy use without sacrificing comfort. 

Put Weather Stripping Around the Doors

One of the easiest ways to reduce winter energy use is adding weather stripping around the doors. Weather stripping is inexpensive, easy to install and effective at preventing cold drafts. You probably already have weather stripping around the doors, but if it’s more than a year or two old there’s a good chance it needs to be replaced. Here’s how to replace your weather stripping:

  • Remove the old weather stripping. 
  • Clean the door jam so there is no glue left. 
  • Place the new weather stripping in the slot around the door jamb starting at the bottom.
  • Once you reach the corner at the top, cut the weather stripping so that it creates a seal all the way up.
  • Place the next piece of weather stripping above the door starting at the piece that was just installed.
  • Cut the top piece to fit all the way across.
  • Finally, install weather stripping on the remaining side of the door, cutting to fit at the very bottom.

Weather stripping should be installed around all exterior doors. If you have a garage connected to the house it’s a good idea to put weather stripping around the garage door as well. It only takes about 10 minutes per door to replace the weather stripping so this DIY energy saver is well worth your time. 

Insulate and Seal Air Leaks

Insulating and sealing air leaks is a powerful energy saving combination. Not only does it reduce the amount of cold air that seeps inside, it also helps to control moisture that can reduce energy efficiency. 

You’ll want to seal around the entire home, not just the windows and doors. Basically anywhere there’s a crack, crevice or gap that allows air from the outside to get it should be sealed with caulk. This includes around pipes, gaps in the siding and around outlets. 

Adding insulation in the attic also helps. You need at least six inches of insulation on the attic floor to prevent cold air from seeping into the heated part of the house. If you do the project yourself the reduction in energy use should quickly offset the cost of the insulation.

Change the Furnace Filter

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to reduce energy use is regularly changing the furnace filter. The filter helps to trap contaminants as the air circulates through the HVAC system. Over time the contaminants build up in the filter and it can restrict airflow. If that happens it will make the furnace work harder to do its job and as a result more energy is used. It could also strain equipment to the point that it becomes damaged or the lifespan is shortened.   

Furnace filters should be replaced at least every three months. However, during the winter when the furnace is used more the furnace filter should be changed every month. 

Put Your Fans on the Winter Setting

Many people don’t know that most ceiling fans turn in both directions, and one direction is better for the winter. If your fan has a reverse setting switch you can set it to turn the blades clockwise in the winter months. This will create an updraft that pushes the hot air downward to the people below. So instead of cooling people off, it helps warm people up without needing to turn up the temperature on the thermostat.

Adjust Vents Accordingly

Airflow isn’t just an issue with the furnace filters and fans. The vents around your home can also impact energy efficiency in the winter. You can reduce winter energy use by:

  • Closing vents in rooms that aren’t being used.
  • Keeping the vents clean and free of debris.
  • Making sure nothing is in front of the vents.

There are also vents on the outside of the home. You’ll want to seal around these vents to prevent air leaks. 

Provider Power is here to help families in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts find reliable fixed rate energy plans this winter. You can find available plans in your area using just your zip code. Try it today to see the current rates!

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Saving Energy as the Temperature Drops and Natural Gas Prices Rise

All of the forecasts are predicting that this winter will be relatively easy in some parts of the northeast and potentially rougher in others. The Farmer’s Almanac, NOAA and AccuWeather are all forecasting a cold winter that’s similar to last year. Once again La Nina is going to bring precipitation and the possibility of winter storms that should be less severe than last year’s Winter Storm Uri. 

The start of December was more mild than normal, but meteorologists believe that’s the last of the winter reprieve. And natural gas prices are expected to increase regardless of whether the winter is warmer overall simply because it will get colder. As the temperature drops, the demand for natural gas goes up along with the prices. Believe it or not, the price of natural gas impacts the price of electricity in general. Today, much of our electric supply is generated using natural gas. 

Don’t worry, Provider Power is here to help you get through the winter comfortably while keeping energy costs in check. In addition to offering fixed-rate energy plans that aren’t subject to price swings, we’ve gathered together some of our best tips in one master energy saving list. Bookmark it so you can use it as a go-to resource all winter long!

How to Reduce Energy Use at Home – These five easy tips are the first thing you should do to lower energy consumption at home this winter.

5 Simple & Clever Ways to Minimize Your Energy Usage  – Here are five more ways to reduce energy use once you’ve put the first five energy saving tips into practice. 

Best Thermostat Settings for Fall and Winter Weather – Simply setting your thermostat correctly for the winter can lower the energy used for heating by as much as 10%. 

10 Tips to Save Energy This Fall and Winter – Start saving more energy with these 10 proven ways to reduce electricity and natural gas use during the winter season. 

5 Questions You Should Ask When Shopping for Energy Efficient Appliances – If you plan to take advantage of holiday and end-of-year sales this post will tell you how to find the most energy efficient appliances. 

How Smart Appliances Can Cut Your Electricity Bills – Want a reason to invest in smart appliances? Here’s how they can help you save energy during the wintertime. 

How to Use Your Appliances Efficiently – When you have your appliances set up this post will help you maximize the energy efficiency to reduce your use. 

5 DIY Ways to Insulate Your Home on the Cheap – Adding insulation is one of the most effective ways to lower energy use without sacrificing comfort. Here are some ways you can DIY the job and save money. 

5 Tips to Getting More Warmth Out of Your Fireplace – Cozying up to the fireplace is the most enjoyable way to lower energy use while staying warm. Here are a few ways to maximize the warmth. 

5 Energy Saving Apps That Can Make Your Home More Efficient – There’s an app for that! These five apps are designed to help you save energy.

How to Make an Old House More Energy Efficient – If you have an older home this post is a must-read that’s full of advice on what you can do to increase energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency Resolutions for the New Year – Start the year off right with these energy saving New Year’s resolutions that will help you reach your goals.

Check back often because we add energy saving resources to the Provider Power blog regularly. Every season you’ll find new ways to save! You can also contact the customer care team to learn more about fixed rate energy plans in New England that could be better suited for your lifestyle at home. 

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What’s Happening With The Natural Gas Price Increase and What It Means for Consumers in New England

As the winter season takes hold of the northeast, people retreat indoors to the warm comfort of their heaters. Last year everyone enjoyed low natural gas rates as the demand shrank due to the pandemic and a relatively mild winter. This winter is a completely different story.

Natural gas prices have already been on the rise since the start of fall. It’s a clear signal that the cost to heat a home will be much higher this year. But why exactly is the price of natural gas climbing?

The rising natural gas and energy prices aren’t caused by any one thing but rather a perfect storm of events. There are three primary factors at play:

  • There is a rising demand around the world for natural gas.
  • Natural gas production has been impacted by the pandemic and there is a shortage of natural gas.
  • Meteorologists predict it will be colder this winter. 

In short, right now natural gas demand is higher than supply, and the demand is likely to keep outpacing supply into the winter. That means wholesale pricing at the commodity level is increasing, and those higher prices trickle all the way down to the end user.

The volatility of natural gas prices can be difficult to deal with, but we’re here to help customers understand the natural gas situation and how it affects their energy plan.  

How Much More You’ll Spend Depends on the Heating Source and Winter Weather

By now you’re probably wondering how much more you’ll pay to heat your home this winter. That all depends on three things: your energy plan, your energy source for heating and how cold it gets.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) monthly Winter Fuels Outlook for October 2021 highlights the dramatic increase in heating demand sources and how the winter weather will affect costs. 

Here’s a breakdown of the anticipated market data and price increase by heating source:

Electricity – 6%

Natural Gas – 30%

Heating Oil – 43%

Propane – 54%

Even the increase in electricity costs during winter is related to the price hikes in natural gas because natural gas is the primary fuel for generating electricity as well. That means consumers will likely see higher energy bills this summer when they start turning on their air conditioners. 

Since the temperature is such a significant contributing factor the EIA provided a few additional estimates to help people guesstimate their future heating costs.

If the winter is 10 degrees warmer than expected the increase in price will be less significant:

Electricity – 4%

Natural Gas – 22%

Heating Oil – 30%

Propane – 29%

If the winter is 10 degrees colder than expected the increase in price will be even higher:

Electricity – 15%

Natural Gas – 50%

Heating Oil – 59%

Propane – 94%

It should be noted that the EIA statistics are based on the national average for natural gas. Fortunately for those living in New England, the current rates are right in line with the national average so the numbers should be fairly accurate for residents in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. However, the average cost per thousand cubic feet does creep higher than average in November, December and January when winter is in full swing. 

What Consumers Can Do: Check Your Contract

All this information can seem a bit bleak for end users that don’t have much control over commodity prices. A lot of people simply swallow the extra expense and cut energy consumption as much as possible. But there’s something else you can do to potentially avoid the rising natural gas prices.

Every consumer should check their energy contract to figure out if now is the time to switch plans or possibly renew an existing plan to lock in a lower rate. You’ll likely fall into one of three categories:

You have a variable rate energy plan. Customers with variable rate plans are the people who will likely see the biggest increase in their energy bills. These plans are very sensitive to price changes since the rates change from month to month based on current market prices. Look to see when the variable rate plan expires. If it’s within the next three months plan to make a switch to a fixed rate plan or your rate could continue to go up.

You have a fixed rate energy plan that will expire soon. If the rate on your plan is better than the current average for natural gas, check your contract to see if you have the option to renew. Also look to see what the requirements are for renewing. Provider Power customers can renew their energy plan within 30 days of expiration. If it’s unclear whether you can renew, be sure to call your energy supplier and ask directly. 

You have a long-term fixed rate energy plan. If you’re in this category there’s less to be concerned about because your rate isn’t going to change during the winter and might even remain the same into the summer. It’s still a good idea to keep an eye on how the natural gas prices are trending so you are prepared to renew in time if that seems like the better option. 

Need help deciding what type of energy plan will be the most affordable in the coming months? Want to know more about the rising natural gas prices and how it might affect your energy plan? Provider Power customers can contact the customer care team by phone for direct assistance. They’re available Monday to Friday to answer all of your questions!

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How Much Does it Cost to Charge an EV at Home?

Auto industry experts at BloombergNEF estimate that by the year 2040 around 70% of new cars will be electric vehicles (EVs). It’s a change that isn’t just transforming the way we drive. It’s also changing energy demands at home. 

Today the question isn’t whether electric vehicles are the future. The question is, how are we going to power all those electric vehicles? 

If you’re in the market for an EV one of the first things that probably crossed your mind was how much it would cost to charge the car at home. Sure, you won’t be spending money at the gas pump, but what’s going to happen to your electric bill?

Let’s take a look at what affects the cost of charging an EV at home and how to estimate what you’ll end up paying to power your electric vehicle. 

The Biggest Factor – Your Price Per kWh Rate

The single biggest factor for how much it will cost to charge an EV at home is right there on your electric bill. The kWh rate is going to be the determining factor in how much you ultimately pay to charge up your battery. 

Something to factor in here is whether or not the rate fluctuates. Time-of-use plans base the kWh rate on the time of day. With this type of electricity plan you could strategically plan when the EV is charged to minimize the cost. Of course, that also means if you need to charge up during the peak demand hours you’ll end up paying a premium price to fill up your battery. 

How Much You Drive

The next biggest factor is how much you drive. It’s the same exact concept as a gas-powered vehicle. The more you drive, the more you’re going to have to fill up. In the case of an EV, you’re filling up the battery with electricity.

Size and Efficiency of the EV’s Battery

Last but not least is the size of the electric vehicle’s battery. In other words, how many kilowatt-hours is a full battery. This is also related to the number of miles you get when the battery is fully charged. These details determine how much electricity an electric vehicle uses

Few drivers are aware of how wide a range there is in EV battery size. The battery can be as small as the Smart EQ Fortwo’s 17.6 kWh power supply or as big as the new Hummer EV’s 200 kWh battery.

Calculating the Cost to Fill an EV Battery

Let’s say you plan to purchase a Tesla Model 3. It has a 75 kWh battery with a range of 310 miles. You drive approximately 1,200 miles a month. That means you need 3.87 full battery charges, which works out to be 290.32 kWh. Your current rate is 12 cents per kWh.

1,200 miles / 310 mile range = 3.87 full charges

75 kWh battery capacity x 3.87 full charges = 290.32 kWh of power

290.32 kWh x 12 cents per kWh = $34.84 electricity/mo

You’ll definitely notice a difference in your electric bill, but you’ll also see a difference in your monthly budget since the gas bill will be gone. For instance, if you bought the Tesla to replace a 2015 Camry with a combined 30 miles per gallon you’d need 40 gallons a month to go 1,200 miles. If gas is $3.19 a gallon you’ll pay $127.60 at the gas pump. 

You’ll pay for the increase in electricity use, but it’s a lot less than what’s paid in gas every month. Another thing to consider is that electricity prices have remained more stable over the years than gasoline. 

No matter what time of day you charge your EV you can count on Provider Power to provide a reliable supply of electricity across the North East. Our plans are made for the energy needs of modern families today, tomorrow and well into the future. See what Provider Power energy plans are available in your area. 

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Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit Checklist

Before you plunk down a few hundred dollars for a professional home energy audit you may want to give things a once over yourself. It’s possible to do a home energy audit yourself to find fixes that can make a big impact on efficiency and ultimately your utility bill.  

Here’s a checklist that will provide guidance during a do-it-yourself home energy audit to help you cover all the major points. As you go through the house check off which items have been examined and what was found. This can help you prioritize fixes and energy efficiency improvements.

Let’s get auditing!

Weatherproofing 

Sealing up air leaks with proper weatherproofing is one of the first things every homeowner should do to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your house. Below are the things you need to check during your DIY home energy audit:

  • Weatherstripping around the doors to the exterior.
  • Weatherstripping around the door to the gargage. 
  • Gaps around the windows.
  • Gaps in mortar of fireplace and around the fireplace.
  • Gaps along the baseboards.
  • Air leaks at exterior spots where two different materials meet. 
  • Gaps around exterior water pipes and vents.
  • Cracks at ceiling seams. 
  • Gaps around outlets and light switches.
  • Cracks in the foundation.

Insulation

Another easy way to improve energy efficiency at home is by adding insulation. Conditioned air in the home can leak out through the ceiling and walls of the home. There are minimum recommendations for insulation that can change from year to year. Many homeowners are surprised to find their home doesn’t have the recommended minimum. Here’s what to check to determine if you have adequate insulation. 

  • Measure the insulation – if you see the floor joists at all there isn’t enough insulation.
  • Look for insulation on the top of the drop down door to the attic space.
  • Make sure the attic door is properly sealed.
  • Examine the sealing around vents, pipes and ducts in the attic.
  • Check the sealing around a chimney, if needed.
  • See if there’s a vapor barrier installed under the insulation. 
  • Look for insulation blocking the vents.

*Checking the insulation levels in the walls is much more complex and requires that the electricity be turned off. If you aren’t comfortable working with electricity it’s best to have a professional check the wall insulation.

HVAC System 

It’s highly recommended to have your HVAC system professionally inspected once a year. This should catch energy efficiency issues that can be corrected. You can also check the HVAC system yourself if it’s been a while since the last inspection. 

  • Check the air filters at least once a month and replace every 1-3 months.
  • Look to see how dirty the HVAC components are and if there’s buildup. 
  • Determine the age of the HVAC equipment and consider replacing it if it’s more than 15 years old.
  • Examine the ductwork looking for air leaks, dirt streaks and gaps at connections and seams.
  • Look for insulation around ductwork.
  • Check the vents to make sure they are clean and open or closed as needed for optimal air flow.

Lighting

Since 10% of your electricity bill is from lighting, you’ll want to make sure your home is lit up efficiently. Here’s what to check during your home energy audit to optimize the lighting.

  • Check each bulb to see if it’s an old incandescent bulb that can be replaced by a CFL or LED bulb.
  • Examine the lumens to make sure it provides sufficient lighting or can limit the number of bulbs needed to light the space.
  • Look for areas where auto on/off lights can be used.
  • Look for areas where solar powered lights can be used.`

If you aren’t sure if you’ve found issues or you want to make sure every possible energy efficiency is found, you may want to consider getting a professional home energy audit. Professional home energy audits should also include a report on how your home systems and appliances use energy to give you a better idea of what can be optimized. 

No matter who does your home energy audit, Provider Power can supply reliable, fixed rate energy plans across the northeast. Check to see which energy plans are available in your area.

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Smart Device Use in the United States

What smart devices do we use the most in America? How prevalent are smart phones in our daily lives? Let’s find out more about smart devices in the U.S!

United States of Smart Devices: 

The Pew Research Center has been carefully tracking device use in the U.S. for years. We’ve always loved our electronics and innovative technology, so it isn’t surprising to find that Americans are often early adopters that go all-in with device use.

In the Internet of Things (IoT) era, smart devices have quickly gained traction to become an important part of everyday life. And we’re not just talking smart phones. That device has been the catalyst for a wide range of other smart devices that are able to connect and operate using your phone. 

All of these devices use a fair amount of energy. They use so much electricity for charging that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) added small electronic devices as a specific item in the Other Uses category on the 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

All of these devices add to your electricity bill, which made us wonder how many people in the U.S. have smart devices. And what is the state of smart device use in the United States today? Let’s find out!

What Types of Smart Devices Are We Using?

Which smart device is an American most likely to own? It’s safe to say we have somewhat of an obsession with our smart phones, but there are a lot of other smart devices that peak our interest. 

Smart Phones 

This is clearly the largest segment of smart devices. Although nearly all Americans have had a cell phone for some time, in 2011 only 35% of people had a smart phone. In the Pew Research Center’s latest survey they found 85% of Americans had a smart phone at the start of 2021. Just two years ago, 81% of people had a smart phone. 

Given that 97% of people own cell phones, clearly there is still room for growth that will likely happen. 

Smart Home Devices

There’s a broad range of smart home devices, because people are buying them. A recent survey by ValuePenguin discovered that 65% of Americans now have at least one smart home device. 

But that number will likely grow substantially in the next few years. Between 2018 and 2026 the smart home device market is expected to grow by an astounding 25.3%. By 2025 smart home devices will be a $135.3 billion dollar industry. 

Fastest Growing Sectors of Smart Devices in the U.S.

The devices above have become common, but in a market that’s growing rapidly there are sure to be more game changing smart devices around the corner. Here’s a look at a few smart devices that you’ll see in more homes moving forward. 

Smart Locks

Home security has always been a top priority for homeowners in America. It was only a matter of time before smart locks became common, and it seems that time has arrived. Industry experts estimate that the smart lock market will grow by 12% in the U.S. between now and 2026.

The experts cite several reasons for the growing adoption of smart locks. First and foremost is growing concern over home safety. However, the rise of home automation, IoT and general awareness about the products is also increasing the number of smart locks that are installed. 

Smart Devices for Energy Management

There is increasing consumer demand for smart devices that allow for energy management. Already we are seeing an uptick in smart HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration) devices and automated heater controls. Many new builds include these types of features to attract buyers. But based on consumer interest, we may soon see smart devices for whole home energy management beyond the HVAC system and refrigeration. 

Smart Plugs

One of the smartest new devices is actually used to power up your smart devices. The use of smart plugs is expected to grow right alongside the smart devices that plug into them. It only makes sense given that control is a top concern for consumers, and a smart plug lets you turn the power supply on or off from anywhere. 

As Internet access is expanded and more people begin using smart phones, we can expect to see smart device use increase in the U.S. It’s something that the energy sector is watching closely since it will surely have an impact on energy consumption in the U.S. moving forward. 

Want a reliable energy plan to power all of your smart devices? Provider Power offers fixed rate energy plans that make rates more reliable no matter how many smart devices you own. Check to see if Provider Power plans are available in your area!

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